Thursday, July 02, 2009

A Great Riff on "The Good (??!) Book": The FOB Bible

I'm not a huge fan of The Old Testament. It's not just that the moral lessons it contains are abhorrent, it's also the fact that -- as ancient texts go -- that particular batch of legends is not particularly interesting. But, by some winds of chance, this one set collection of stories (The Bible) has become the best-selling book of the year, every year, and it's not clear that any other text in human history has been as thoroughly and repeatedly discussed and analyzed. Much like Twilight, the huge body commentary spawned by the text is a lot more interesting than the text itself (here's a fun new post about Twilight that just sprung up). In a similar vein we have The FOB Bible. Despite the retread subject matter, The FOB Bible adds some clever and original insights to these familiar tales.

The FOB Bible is a collection of literary shorts (stories, poetry, etc.) inspired by the stories of The Old Testament. Instead of just taking the biblical tales at face value (the way we normally think of them), the authors (the "Friends of Ben") imagine what it would be like if these stories really happened, filling them out in lively detail.

As an example, "The Book of Job's Wife" adds a very human dimension to what it would be like for a family to suffer the misfortunes described in "The Book of Job." The story is almost an apologist's rendition of "The Book of Job" in that it cleans up some of the most questionable aspects of the story (the idea that getting a new family makes up for burning his kids to death; the idea that God decided to make Job's family suffer on purpose, on a bet; etc.) -- portraying God as a force of good and comfort instead. Yet, I liked "The Book of Job's Wife" anyway, as a well-told story. That one was my second-favorite in The FOB Bible collection, right after "Ezra's Inbox": which is "The Book of Ezra" re-imagined as a collection of emails. That one was fun because I've been in web-like email discussion like that one, and it's an entertaining way of illustrating each character's position and what they think of one another. It almost made me want to go back and read "The Book of Ezra". Almost. But I suspect that (like the band) this short retelling is a tad better than Ezra.

Some stories from The FOB Bible have been posted online, such as the powerful Abraham's Purgatory (correcting the thoroughly despicable moral in the original story of Abraham's sacrifice), and The Changing of the God -- a lighter look at the transition from The Old Testament to The New Testament. Other excerpts (including some of the clever rhymed poetry) can be found here.

Overall, The FOB Bible is beautifully produced and illustrated with gorgeous (public domain, I assume) engravings by Gustav Doré that complement the tone and text well. I'd recommend this book as a good choice to pass around and discuss on a pleasant, rainy weekend getaway with friends.


B.G. Christensen said...

Thanks, Chanson! Yeah, we offered Dore a commission, but he wouldn't hear anything of it. He's quite the nice guy, as dead people go.

Th. said...


He is, actually, this is true. I asked his mom.

Thanks for the review, Chanson. I'm glad you liked it. And if you do decide to reread any Ezra parts of the Bible, Nehemiah's a better read. Just fyi.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recommendation. Is this the Bible as it should have been written?

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Mr. FOB and Th.!!!

Glad you liked the review, and I hope your sales and promotional phase is doing well!!! :D

Hey Chaplain!!!

Perhaps. It's not clear you could base a religion on this version, but maybe that's also an improvement over the original. ;^)

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